"This," Rick Perry told me as he took the stage to launch his presidential campaign, "is gonna be a fun ride!"
Then the three-term conservative governor of Texas was bounding onto the stage, saying, "Let's get this thing started." He told the RedState Gathering, an enthusiastic crowd of conservative writers, and a national TV audience:
It is time for Americans to believe again, to believe that the promise of our future is far greater than even the best days of our past. It is time to believe again in the potential of private enterprise, set free from the shackles of an overbearing federal government.
And it is time to truly restore our standing in the world and renew our faith in freedom as the best hope of peace in a world beset with strife.
The crowd stood, chanting, "Perry! Perry! Perry!"
"America is not broken," Perry exhorted, "Washington, D.C., is broken.”
Full text of Perry announcement is here.
They didn't need no schtinking straw vote in Charleston on Saturday afternoon. Perry becomes the ninth candidate seeking the Republican presidential nomination in Tampa next year.
Given his executive record of tax-cutting, his undefeated record as a statewide candidate in the nation's second-largest state, his fundraising prowess and the lingering thirst among many GOP members for a charismatic, true conservative, Perry immediately joins the top tier.
He immediately flew off to New Hampshire to Pamela Tucker's home for the kind of living room politics beloved in the Granite State, home of the first primary next winter.
On Sunday, Perry will speak at a Lincoln dinner in Waterloo, Iowa, before returning to New Hampshire next week.
"I will work every day," Perry told the Charleston crowd, "to make Washington, D.C., as inconsequential in your lives as I can, and free our families, small businesses and states from a burdensome and costly federal government, so they can create, innovate and succeed. With the help and courage of the American people, we will get our country working again."
The 61-year-old former Air Force pilot, lieutenant governor, state representative and agriculture commissioner said he comes from Paint Creek, Texas, a tiny town so small it doesn't even have a ZIP pcode. And speaking of Washington, he lit into President Obama for the recent unprecedented downgrade of the federal government's credit rating:
In reality, this is just the most recent downgrade. The fact is for nearly three years, President Obama has been downgrading American jobs, downgrading our standing in the world, downgrading our financial stability, downgrading confidence and downgrading the hope of a better future for our children.
The governor recited some of his state's legislative achievements, including balancing the budget with no new taxes and enacting 'loser-pays' lawsuit reforms. And, of course, jobs. Texas has created 40% of all new jobs in the United States in the past two years. Yet, Perry said:
"One in six work-eligible Americans cannot find a full-time job. That is not a recovery. That is an economic disaster."
-- Andrew Malcolm
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Photos: Andrew Malcolm / Los Angeles Times (Perry).